Although Scottish jazz singer Mary May’s debut CD “This is What You Are” has been out for a few months, tonight at The Jazz Bar was its official launch, and to celebrate the event, Mary had augmented her usual band consisting of Colin Black (guitar), Alan King (keys), Ray Leonard (bass), and Jim Gardiner (drums) with a horn section made up of Eddie McGovern (trombone), Craig Dawson (sax), and Alan Haggart (trumpet).
Although an extended band this size did push the small performance space at the Jazz Bar to its limits, it certainly added to the sound for this show as this was pretty close to the sound on the CD as all these musicians play on it.
This show was a mixture of songs from “This is What You Are” and some standard classics mixed throughout the evening (I hope Mary does a CD of some of these classics soon too)
Our opening number was the title track of the CD “This is What You Are”. Other tracks played over our evening included “Black Nile (by Wayne Shorter), Meet Me, Midnight (by Barry Manilow) and “Where Were You (When I Needed You) by Stevie Wonder. If some of these songs don’t sound to you like standard Jazz fare then you are right, and that is the strength of this album. Mary may has not taken the easy route for her debut CD and put together a collection of standard covers, but along with arranger Ray Leonard has re-interpreted music from outside the normal Jazz catalogue and given them a new sound and feel. “Meet Me, Midnight” actually has a jazz/soul fusion mix to it and that was more than emphasised tonight by the soulful sound of Alan King on keys. Jazz needs people like Mary May who are prepared to step outside the standard songbook list and fuse new sounds into it.
Standards for the evening included “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To”, “Fly me To The Moon” and “That Old Black Magic”. Out of all the standards in this show though my favourite for the evening was a wonderful version of that Julie London classic “Cry Me A River”. So many times I have heard singers covering this song and destroying it by thinking that powerful vocals are what this song is about, and to me they have missed the whole point of it. This is a song full of sad emotions (just listen to the lyrics) and Mary covered this one pretty much in straight Julie London style. It makes a welcome change to find a singer who understands that this song is about the words and emotion and that “shouting out vocals” are not required on this wonderful song.
I liked tonight’s show a lot and listening to Mary perform songs in her own unique style is always a pleasure. It was also interesting to watch tonight just how years of live performances helped Mary work through what at times was a lot of vocal interruption from a small number of people in the audience who seemed to think that there was some sort of competition to hear them above Mary and her band. Well folks, if you are reading this review, here is the truth...the rest of us were actually there to hear a very good singer and very good band, and you should have shown them all more respect (as well as your fellow audience members). Having said that though, this small band of people did not in the end put any of us off listening to some great live music.
Also on the show tonight for a few numbers was Jazz singer Freddie King who has shall we say a unique style of his own. Freddie has a wonderful toned deep baritone voice that I really liked on a pretty straight version of “Detour Ahead”. The other two songs were in a “scat” style and I have to admit to not being a big fan of this, but that is personal. Judging by some of the applause though, others in the room were “scat” fans. There was something about Freddie’s style though that just reminded me of the sound of Louis Prima at times.
I reviewed Marys CD back in September just after her last show at The Jazz Bar at the closing of the Edinburgh Fringe. That review is still online at http://www.southsideadvertiser.biz./marymaycdreview.htm
Review by Tom King